Voice Release Therapy: Be Heard Again

from Adie Grey MacKenzie

Voice Release Therapy is a combination of bodywork and self care techniques that has been seen in many cases to improve vocalization. The specific technique was developed by a physical therapist at Vanderbilt at the request of The Voice Center. It is based on a variety of techniques and uses a lot of myofascial release.

This therapy is helpful for people who feel it takes a lot of effort to produce volume or to be able to get through a performance or lecture. Sometimes teachers can’t project or get volume and end up with very tired voices, and singers can feel like a performance or recording session is too much and they struggle to get through it. Sometimes people have a change in their voice where it doesn’t work as well as it once did. Even abdominal surgery can cause deviations in function that eventually effect the structures that allow the voice to function. Our voices are susceptible to many kinds of emotional and physical changes, even when those changes seem like they should be unrelated, or are on distant parts of the body.

The technical term for these changes is called muscle tension dysphonia, which is a diagnosis only a doctor can make, but what it means is that muscle tension is affecting the function of the voice. This tension can come from postural habits, overuse, and/or emotional stresses, and Voice Release Therapy has been seen to be extremely effective at returning normal or near normal function of the voice; in some people their voice got better than it had ever been!

Treatments work best if people plan to come about once a week consistently for 6-8 weeks. We recommend coming to one session first to see if it is something you want to pursue, and then continuing from there. Each session is 1 hour, and includes hands on work, exercise, and education. We can achieve everything we need to achieve in the visits, whether it takes five or ten or however many your body needs, but there is a tendency for any fascial release to return to a tight state and so maintenance is important. This can happen through self care using exercises you learn and other techniques, or you can come back for regular maintenance sessions with the therapist.

Yoga, especially the kind of yoga taught at HaLe’, is also a great way to maintain results gained in Voice Release Therapy because it works on core stability, anterior stretching, and connecting with the breath in a way that is different from voice lessons. Most of us do so much in our lives that bring our torsos forward into a flexed position, and 99% of the time these vocal problems are caused by postural deviations that end up damaging the capacity of space around the vocal chords. Yoga helps people learn to relax the body into postures that enhance the fascial release done in therapy sessions.

Breathing is also hugely important, since most of us don’t breathe properly. Yoga helps with breath training and reinforces the breath training done in therapy sessions. Some people are good and know how to breathe and that is not the issue, but a lot of people don’t know how to connect to the diaphragm. A lot of us use our neck muscles that attach to the scalenes to breathe, using the neck muscles to lift our upper rib cage. We can learn this through emotional stress, trouble breathing, or any number of places, but when we keep doing it, those neck muscles tighten up drastically which then means the vocal folds (they are more folds than chords) don’t have room to vibrate easily.

Voice Release Therapy is a very effective treatment for many voice issues, and it is also pretty pleasant to receive. It can sometimes get uncomfortable, but most people look forward to their sessions. They find it enjoyable, enlightening, and the results feel good.